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The University of Southampton

Pioneering £8M programme aims to reduce environmental impact of gas turbine jet engines

Published: 2 September 2020
Fibre optics
Southampton has expertise in optical fibre fabrication, fibre laser sources and mid-infrared fibres.

The University of Southampton’s expertise in optical fibre fabrication, fibre laser sources, and mid-infrared fibres will contribute to an £8 million research programme which aims to reduce the environmental impact of aviation and power generating gas turbine engines (GTEs).

The Laser Imaging of Turbine Engine Combustion Species (LITECS) programme, led by the University of Strathclyde, aims to deliver transformational combustion measurement and modelling tools to enable the development of low emission engine designs and evaluation of new low emission fuels, leading to reduced environmental impact. As well as aircraft, gas turbines are used to power trains, ships, electrical generators and pumps, with the UK one of the technology and market leaders globally in GTE manufacturing with £27 billion exports in 2015.

Sustainability and the need to minimise emissions are significant global issues. To respond to that, industries are committed to meeting stringent emissions targets and have committed to drastic emissions reductions by 2050.

Southampton’s world-renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and Zepler Institute have made ground-breaking contributions over the last 30 years in the development of high-power fibre lasers which allow for a better understanding of the combustion process in jet engines and to reduce emissions. The Centre will make key contributions to the LITECS programme in the areas of fibre lasers and amplifiers and delivery fibres at wavelengths longer than 2 μm.

“This programme requires that we develop and fabricate fibres with new compositions in order to extend the technology to new wavelengths with the performance, size, and reliability required for LITECS,” said Professor Johan Nilsson of the ORC. “There are tremendous advantages offered by optical fibres which are very attractive for the chemical-species imaging in LITECS. The ORC and Zepler Institute are very well placed to take on the challenge of these new technologies and deliver effective solutions, as we have done for more many decades now.”

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and industry, the LITECS programme involves a consortium of universities including Strathclyde, Southampton, Edinburgh, Manchester, Loughborough and Sheffield. The programme builds on the achievements of a previous £2.8m programme which used newly developed laser techniques to demonstrate, for the first time, two-dimensional imaging of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the exhaust plume of a full-scale commercial gas turbine aero-engine.

Researchers, backed by industry partners Rolls-Royce, Siemens Energy, OptoSci, M Squared Lasers and Tracerco, are working to establish several new non-intrusive multi-beam laser measurement systems for simultaneous imaging of the concentration of multiple gases, soot and temperature in the exhausts and combustion zones of GTEs

The resulting measurement data will be used to develop new understanding of the combustion and emissions generation processes and apply it to advancing our strategies for emissions reduction. Measurements will be made for a range of engine conditions and new fuels, enabling for the first time, direct experimental evaluation of new fuel types and their potential to achieve reduced emissions.

The Programme Leader, Professor Walter Johnstone, from Strathclyde’s department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering said: “Serious emissions reduction can only come from new, disruptive, measurement technologies that transform the experimental characterisation, understanding and modelling of the combustion and emissions generation processes and enable direct experimental evaluation of the performance of alternative fuels.

“The LITECS programme brings together six world leading UK engineering universities, supported by industry, to provide the multi-disciplinary expertise to address these needs.

“Success will advance our strategies towards significant emissions reduction and ensure the UK is a world leader in turbine engine combustion research.”

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